The one-day visit last Saturday by Secretary General of Amnesty International, Salil Shetty, to the Utopia homelands generated the usual round of headlines: conditions are "devastating", comparable to those in the "Third World", policies amount to "ethnic cleansing" (this last from Rosalie Kunoth-Monks, Utopia resident and Barkly Shire President).
What the so-called "fact finding mission" did not do was shed any light on the challenges facing governments and Aboriginal people about the future of the homelands at Utopia and elsewhere. This was done incisively by the outgoing Northern Territory Coordinator General for Remote Services, Bob Beadman (at right), in May of this year. His few pages of analysis provide far more insight into the situation than all of Amnesty's rhetoric, either in Mr Shetty's pronouncements or Amnesty's report, The Land Holds Us, released in August.
Mr Beadman also recommends some immediate (catch-up) steps for governments to take. There's no sign of the Northern Territory Government doing so. Minister for Indigenous Development Malarndirri McCarthy declined to answer the questions put to her by the Alice Springs News. Amnesty also declined to be interviewed by the Alice
However, a spokesperson for Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin says her government "respects the rights of Indigenous Australians to live on their traditional lands and acknowledges the profound connection which many Aboriginal people have with their homelands" but "housing investment is currently focussed on larger Indigenous communities where more Indigenous people live and which are faced with poor housing and overcrowding".
And the spokesperson says Canberra has provided to the NT Government $80 million for provision of basic municipal and essential services to homelands in the Northern Territory over the past four years but "future funding from July next year will be discussed with the
Northern Territory Government." KIERAN FINNANE reports.
PHOTO ABOVE:Lenny Jones, 73, and Albert Bailey, 79, Chairperson of Urapuntja Health both from Soapy Bore, speak with Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty. Photo courtesy Amnesty International.